Top 10 Books For Self Discovery

Reading = Life

I think we’re all trying to make sense of our lives on some level.

Life is a truly a beguiling, magical, mysterious affair and one of the things I’ve always found comforting is reading the experiences of others when they help make sense of mine.

I’m an ‘info’-vore and when I first started my journey in pursuit of answers I blitzed as many books as I could find. Nowadays I’m pretty content to read less and experience more but I think that’s actually in large part to digesting a lot of great works of literature and allowing it to integrate slowly over time.

I’m always getting asked about books people should and whilst I try to make recommendations specific to someone’s situation, I decided to write up the 10 books that have most impacted my life over the last 10 years.

I spent a long time thinking about these, each have had a profound impact on me and many people I know. Often when I’ve recommended it to someone else its become a key part of our relationship from that moment which is an awesome feeling.

So  I encourage you to see what lands for you from the list below and if grab something, message me and let me know how you found it.

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.

— JOSEPH CAMPBELL

The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan Watts

Alan Watts, the British philosopher widely credited with helping to bring eastern thought to popular culture in the West, takes on the task of writing the one book you would need to read to understand who and what you are if you landed on the planet today.

Through beautiful use of metaphor and analogy, Watts uses Eastern philosophy to break down Western understanding of consciousness to help us understand that the self is in fact the root and ground of the universe. The illusion that we are isolated beings, unconnected to the rest of the universe, has led us to view the “outside” world with hostility, and has fueled our misuse of technology and subjugation of the natural world.

The power of The Book though is in its beautiful simplicity and inescapable logic. As you read, you feel it breaking down your belief systems, unlocking the doors of perception in your mind and permitting a new form of wisdom and seeing. Truly a revelatory text on what it means to be human—and a mind-opening manual of initiation into the central mystery of existence.

Bottom line: A must-own book.

Available on Amazon

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

Brené Brown rose to fame around 2011 with her TED talk on the power of vulnerability. The video, viewed some seven million times, struck a chord with its core theme of opening up to ourselves and others for a more radically honest and fulfilling life.

Daring Greatly lays out the research and story behind that theme and dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.

Brown explains how vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment, and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity. She writes: “When we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives.”

Putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of getting criticized or feeling hurt. But when we step back and examine our lives, we will find that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as standing on the outside of our lives looking in and wondering what it would be like if we had the courage to step into the arena.

Bottom line: This is essential reading for asking tough questions of yourself.

Available on Amazon

Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion by Joseph Campbell

More popularly known for his seminal work The Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Power of Myth, mythologist Joseph Campbell left us with an even greater treasure: Reflections on the Art of Living.

The book is a collage of stories, lectures, and excerpts from Campbell’s writing based on a 30 day series of his lectures at the Esalen Institute towards the end of his life. It weaves through every aspect of human endeavor from love and marriage to work and children, blending in such poetic and lived wisdom that it becomes almost a textbook for life lessons to be learnt.

Packed full of quotes that have a tendency to stay in your mind for years to come. “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Bottom line: A great travel or bed-side companion.

Available on Amazon

We do not ‘come into’ this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree.

— ALAN WATTS

Truth. Is. Beautiful.

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The Presence Process: A Journey Into Present Moment Awareness by Michael Brown

Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now is perhaps one of the most popular spiritual texts of contemporary literature but many of its readers often complain of being left with no sense on how to become more present as the book expounds. Enter Michael Brown with a deep dive into the heart of the matter and an extremely practical guide to becoming more conscious.

In The Presence Process, Brown argues that much of our behavior is conditioned by deeply suppressed emotional imprints that are programmed into us through experience, largely in the first seven years of childhood. Until these emotional charges are consciously identified and integrated, whenever upset, like programmed organic machinery, we automatically resort to the same undermining behaviors.

The Presence Process is a guided, self-facilitated journey into taking full responsibility for our emotional condition. At times quite repetitive (a deliberate approach), the book is a ten week lived experience that brings unconscious behavior and thought patterns to the surface. It can seem dull on the intellectual surface, but as you hold its contents out into the real world, life shows you the profound wisdom in this book.

Bottom line: A great book for a three-month inquiry into your patterns of behaviour.

Available on Amazon

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

Most famous for his bestselling spiritual guide The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle inspired millions to discover the power of living “in the now.” His follow up, A New Earth, is an even more profound meditation on not just our own state of consciousness but the wider planet.

In the book, Tolle delivers perhaps the greatest exploration of the workings of the ego in both our individual lives and at a societal level. He uses this to describe how our attachment to our own sense of self creates the dysfunction that leads to anger, jealousy, and unhappiness, and shows instead how to awaken to a new state of consciousness and follow the path to a truly fulfilling existence.

The most profound sections are perhaps on parenting and work, two areas of life where many people struggle to align with their inner self. In parenting, he looks deeply into the difference between ‘doing’ and ‘being’ as it relates to caring for children, and suggests that instead of rushing to provide more and more, parents should spend more time just being fully present with their children. In work he looks at how to marry our internal gifts to our outward action, to alleviate stress and worry and find fulfilment in the workplace.

Bottom line: A deeply inspiring book full of life-changing wisdom.

Available on Amazon

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

German poet Rainer Maria Rilke was perhaps one of the greats of the 20th century. His poems are deeply encompassing of the human experience and a delicate depiction of the workings of the human heart.

From 1903 to 1908, Rilke wrote a series of letters to a young, would-be poet on poetry and on surviving in a harsh world. Those letters, are a profound source of inspiration and guidance for all those questioning the world around them.

With characteristic love of life, he challenges all to “be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Bottom line: If you want to have a beautiful life, ask beautiful questions.

Available on Amazon

The only journey is the journey within.

— RAINER MARIA RILKE

The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment by Adyashanti

More and more people are questioning the nature of their experience and as they reach a certain place, for many, the question becomes: now what? Information about life after awakening is usually not made public and so in The End of Your World, Adyashanti responds to a growing need for direction on the spiritual path.

The book begins by describing the “I got it/I lost it” phenomenon – the fluctuation between “nonabiding” temporary awakening and the ultimate state of “abiding” enlightenment. Where it really comes into its own is in describing all of the natural feelings associated with temporary awakening, this including the trap of meaninglessness, how the ego can co-opt realization for its own purposes, the illusion of superiority and the danger of becoming drunk on emptiness.

It’s a wonderful book for helping to navigate the confusion that can follow crisis in life (often the trigger for internal inquiry). As you unpick the natural defense mechanisms of the mind, you come to a much fuller and more compassionate understanding of yourself and the path you are on.

As Adyashanti teaches: “full awakening comes when you sincerely look at yourself, deeper than you’ve imagined, and question everything.” The End of Your World is an invitation for an honest investigation of what you really are—and how to live once you discover it.

Bottom line: If you’re feeling spiritually disoriented, this a great read.

Available on Amazon

The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

Internal inquiry more often than not leads to uncomfortable places. Guilt, shame, fear, anxiety and the unfortunate but regular gatekeepers of clarity, joy and peace of mind. In The Places that Scare You, Pema Chodron teaches to invite the whole experience into the full light of awareness.

At the centre of the book is this: we always have a choice: we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us and make us increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder. Pema provides inspirational guidance and tools to deal with the most pernicious of life’s difficulties and look for the wisdom that lies beyond fear in openheartedness and tenderness.

Chodron highlights six traditional paramitas to model (generosity, discipline, patience, enthusiasm, meditation and unconditional wisdom) and cautions that ego, self-deception, unforgiveness and a grasping for permanence all present barriers to compassion.

The book is stunningly well written with enough wisdom for the heart to last ten lifetimes. “Confess your hidden faults. Approach what you find repulsive. Help those you think you cannot help. Anything you are attached to, let it go. Go to the places that scare you.”

Bottom line: A beautiful companion for inspiration in difficult times.

Available on Amazon

Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe by Robert Lanza

Biocentrism is a book that flips our traditional understanding of the world inside-out. Similar to the Tao of Physics the book borrows from scientific findings in relatively theory and quantum physics to explain the world as being manifest entirely in the mind of the observer.

Anyone looking for a laypersons explanation of Einstein’s theory of relatively and its intersection with spirituality need look no further. Through story and analogy the book carefully unpicks how time and space are both relative and not fixed concepts (neither exist in the true sense of the word) and are instead relative to the observer. Lanza then goes on to discuss the ‘observer effect’ and the law of manifestation, as they have been found to be in physics.

Where the book really comes into its own is in breaking down fixed ideas about the nature of reality. In depicting the universe as a fluxing, constantly-changing organism, he helps one come to realize the true nature of being but via a scientific approach to understanding, which appeases many a reader looking to physics for answers.

Bottom line: Guaranteed that you won’t see the world the same way after reading this.

Available on Amazon

Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender by David R. Hawkins

Letting Go is a powerful book that lays out all of the states of consciousness we cycle through (fear, acceptance, love) and how can become trapped within each.

The book describes a simple but powerful means by which to let go of the obstacles to enlightenment by surrendering and become free of negativity.

To be surrendered means to have no strong emotion about an experience: “It’s okay if it happens, and it’s okay if it doesn’t.” When we are free, there is a letting go of attachments. We can enjoy a thing, but we don’t need it for our happiness. In the state of acceptance, there is the feeling that nothing needs to be changed.

Everything is perfect and beautiful the way it is. The world is to be enjoyed. In acceptance, there is a decreased preoccupation with “doingness,” a growing focus on the quality of beingness itself, and the perfection of our own inner capacity for caring and lovingness.

It is an invaluable resource for all professionals who work in the areas of mental health, psychology, medicine, self-help, addiction recovery, and spiritual development.

Bottom line: A powerful look into the workings of the mind and the importance of cultivating equanimity.

Available on Amazon

The essence of bravery is being without self-deception.

— PEMA CHODRON

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